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Copyright – Ask An Expert: Do I Need To File PA and SR Copyright Forms?

Our “Ask An Expert” series allows the Go Forth Music community to ask questions about any music industry issue.  We find the right person to answer it and publish their response on our site.  To submit your question, visit our “Ask An Expert” page.

Q. Is it necessary to have both a PA and SR copyright on a song in order to license it if it was written and recorded by the same artist? Is it possible just to hold an SR and license it? Thanks! – R.C.

A. When licensing music, you must make sure that your copyrights are in order. If you’re working with a label, your copyrights usually belong to the label. But if you’re an indie artist, you usually own your own copyrights and if you’re not licensing your music through a music publishing company, you’re directly licensing your music.

With that said, there are a few basics. When dealing with music, there are two seperate copyrights involved: one in the underlying music itself and one in actual sound recording (the final recorded version of the song). When registering for a copyright, you can either file a Form PA (Performing Arts for published and unpublished works of performing arts such as musical works, movies, choreographic works, etc.) or a Form SR (Sound Recording which only applies to that particular sound or recorded performance). A Form SR should also be used if you wish to make one registration for both the sound recording and the original work (musical composition), but only if the copyright claimant is the same for both, meaning the same person produced/wrote the song and recorded it. Thus, if you’re an indie artist who has produced and recorded your own work, having a Form SR copyright is enough to license you music, but if someone else owns the underlying work, you would need their consent as well when licensing.

– La-Vaughnda A. Taylor, J.D.

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